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Afghan attack, Congo killings, and crisis debate at Davos: The Cheat Sheet

(Andrew Quilty/IRIN)

Every week, IRIN’s team of specialist editors scans the humanitarian horizon to curate a reading list on important and unfolding trends and events around the globe:


Congo’s deepening crisis


UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for "credible investigations" after at least six people were killed in Kinshasa on Sunday during a crackdown on demonstrations against President Joseph Kabila. Whether he will get it is a different matter. Guterres said the government should "hold those responsible accountable", just as the UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO reported a surge in extrajudicial executions by “state agents”, notably in the southern region of Kasai. According to MONUSCO’s annual human rights report, there were 1,176 recorded summary killings, "including at least 89 women and 213 children” in 2017 – mostly committed by the armed forces – a 25 percent increase on 2016. Sunday’s protests followed the killing of nine people by the police during similar demonstrations organised by the Catholic Church on 31 December. Kabila is facing mounting unrest over his postponement of elections last year. They are now scheduled to take place at the end of 2018 – although few Congolese believe that date will hold either. Meanwhile, militia groups in the south and east are unifying to force Kabila from power, with increasing numbers of refugees fleeing to ZambiaUganda, and Angola to escape the widening conflict. Look out for IRIN’s latest “who’s who” on the violence, and visit our in-depth page here.


Afghan attack fallout


Ripples from Wednesday’s attack on Save the Children’s office in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad are being felt far and wide. At least six civilians were killed, including four Save the Children staff, when gunmen, apparently acting in the name of so-called Islamic State, stormed the office after one of the attackers blew himself up in front of the building. The charity, which runs education projects for some 700,000 children across almost half of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, immediately suspended those operations, but the wider fallout could be far greater. It has become impossible to ignore the growing trend of civilian targeting in Afghanistan, in particular of aid organisations and places of worship. More than 60 local and international NGOs put out a joint statement, railing against this “normalisation” of attacks on civilians and calling for greater protections for aid workers operating in dangerous frontline environments. “Over the last year, there have been 156 attacks on aid workers committed by actors involved in the current conflict,” the statement said. “This includes 17 aid workers who have been killed as they attempted to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance including food, safe drinking water and healthcare to those most in need.” It wasn’t immediately clear if this latest attack would be the tipping point for some aid organisations to further scale back operations in Afghanistan, as the International Committee of the Red Cross has already done, but the secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Jan Egeland, said his organisation was reassessing and that aid groups in Afghanistan were “hanging on by our fingernails”. We reported in October on how this spreading insecurity is cutting off medical care for many vulnerable Afghans. We’ll now have to look in greater depth at aid access more generally.


What’s really behind Saudi aid to Yemen?


Given the “dire, unrelenting” humanitarian crisis in Yemen – to use the recent words of Guterres, you would think the announcement of any new aid is welcome. So when the Saudi Arabia-led coalition this week announced the Yemen Comprehensive Humanitarian Operations (YCHO), a new plan it said commits over $3.5 billion to “relieve suffering in Yemen”, including $1.5 billion in “new humanitarian aid funding for distribution across UN agencies and international organisations”, it certainly made headlines. But there’s almost certainly more to this story (as there has been with past major donations). Almost immediately, a group of major NGOs working in Yemen said the plan had been developed without consulting “the majority of operational aid agencies” on the ground, and although it includes promises to develop port infrastructure and send aid by land through “humanitarian corridors”, they said they were still waiting for information on how all this might work. Some 180,000 litres of fuel have reportedly already reached Marib for distribution to health facilities and water stations, but there’s a lot more to parse, so watch this space for more.


Did you miss it?


Crises on the horizon in 2018: the view from Davos


Forget the Donald Trump show, the World Economic Forum, for IRIN at least, was all about the humanitarian outlook for 2018. Everyone, from ourselves to CARE International, had drawn up their own list of the crises to watch, or that weren’t receiving enough attention, so we, together with the Overseas Development Institute, convened an all-star humanitarian panel to thrash it out in the Swiss Alps. In more than an-hour of lively discussion (you can watch the event here), panelists tackled an array of horizon issues: the mutation and regrouping of so-called Islamic State; the next phase in Syria, the possibility the Congo situation could ”explode”; the emergence of large-scale crises in Venezuela and Mozambique; and the growing threat posed by extreme weather events. Personal highlights: UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock being upbraided by Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth for failing to name the perpetrators of atrocities in Syria, and Professor Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou, an expert on transnational terrorism and former Mauritanian foreign minister, explaining the “evil genius” of former US president George W. Bush. And do check out the short film below we produced to open the event.



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